Refreshing Variety Bubbling Up on Drink Menus

There’s a new addition to the regular drink selection at cafés, restaurants and breweries across the Vail Valley: kombucha. Kombucha itself is nothing new; the fizzy fermented drink has lined the shelves of specialty health food stores for years now. But, its presence on menus has elevated kombucha from niche to refreshingly mainstream.

Kombucha in a glass

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Historically, the lineup of options available to those not interested in alcohol has looked pretty dismal across the board. Soda, juice and seltzer water have comprised that list for too long, while the array of alcoholic options has skyrocketed in comparison. The increase in interest for better, nonalcoholic drinks has helped fuel the rise of kombucha.

Kombucha makes such an ideal alter-native to alcohol, because it features many of the same characteristics that make alcoholic drinks so appealing. It’s fizzy like beer, crisp like wine and fruity like a cocktail. Tack on the added health benefits from fermentation, and you’ve got yourself a worthy competitor.

Many local eateries now offer a wide variety of kombucha flavors and types to give sober folks a way to actually enjoy a night out. Color Coffee and Vail Brewing Company even include local kombucha on tap right alongside draft beer.

“We try to have one on draft, so someone that’s not drinking at all or at the time can still come here with their friends and feel included,” explains Marshall Kohls, manager and buyer at Color Coffee. The café stays open into the evening for when the day shifts from coffee hour to happy hour. Kohls picks from popular brands like Rowdy Mermaid and Brew Dr., as well as more specialty options like his personal favorite, Happy Leaf. His main criterion is low sugar content to keep the drink tasting sophisticated.


Vail Brewing Company has also recently added kombucha to their menu. They keep a rotating flavor option from Rocky Mountain Cultures on tap year-round. They don’t brew it in-house for the time being while trying to keep up with the regular beer demand but still like to keep it local. Rocky Mountain Cultures started out as High Country Kombucha in Eagle and now produces their kombucha in Gypsum as a distributor for carriers like VBC.

But, one of the best qualities about kombucha is its versatility. The drink works for all sorts of scenarios because of the abundance of flavors. A bright lemon makes a perfect midday summer refreshment, for instance; while, a deeper blackberry or ginger matches the cool air of an early spring day. “We like to match the flavor with the season,” says a busy bartender at Vail Brewing Company while slinging drinks — including the current peach kombucha — down the bar. “That way the kombucha doesn’t just feel like an afterthought to the beer.”

It’s also one of the few drinks out there that successfully swings both ways.There are plenty of alcoholic kombucha options available as well, but there’s no loss of taste or benefit either way. Opting for regular kombucha doesn’t feel like accepting a consolation prize, in contrast to nonalcoholic beer that’s more often disappointing than not.

Kombucha’s rise in popularity doesn’t just represent a new beverage fad; it’s more of a social upheaval. People have become increasingly interested in finding new ways to connect with one another over food and drink. Just as more vegetarian and vegan plates help plant-based diners feel more welcome at restaurants, kombucha serves as a reminder that alcohol isn’t the be-all and end-all. When a menu expands, so does the community.